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Seven Pool Exercises to Enhance Your Cardio Workouts

When the weather is warm, the building is open, or the inner polar bear is roaring for a chilly adventure, a pool workout may be just the ticket for a new or re-energized cardio workout routine.

While there’s something decidedly un-glamorous about the phrase water aerobics, the health benefits of water aerobics are undeniable. The resistance that water generates creates stronger muscles and boosts workout intensity, and because water also supports your weight, pool exercises are ideal for many people dealing with painful conditions, chronic illness, or recent physical trauma like surgery or injury. Here are seven swimming exercises you can do to create your own water aerobics routine.

1. Jogging. Jogging in the water burns more calories and strengthens you more than jogging on land. For your water jogging to be most effective, stay in water that is waist-deep and jog in high-intensity intervals of 1-3 minutes, alternating with some of the less intense exercises on this list. If jogging is too intense, try walking at a fast pace. This is a terrific cardio exercise.

2. Spiderman. Facing the side of the pool, in water that is chest-high, use a sweeping motion with your arms to keep your upper body stable while your legs “run up” the side of the pool, just like Spiderman. This exercise simply cannot be imitated on land, and it will strengthen your core and back muscles.

3. Fly Backs. In chest-high water, extend one leg forward and lunge with the back leg straight until the water comes over your shoulders. Hold both arms in front of you, with elbows straight, palms flat, fingers extended, and thumbs forward (like a stiff clap). Open your arms straight out to your sides – don’t let your wrists get too far behind you. Sweep your arms open and shut for 8 to 15 reps. Do four sets of reps, alternating which leg is in front. These will work out your chest and upper back muscles; add a cardio element by walking or jogging around the pool while you do them.

4. Superman. Stand facing the side of the pool in chest-deep water. Rest your hands on the edge of the pool and bring your body and legs straight out. Hold this position for 30-second intervals, with a 1-2 minute rest between. If this move is too easy, try moving your legs up and down in a continual motion. This exercise strengthens the shoulders, back, and core.

5. Leg Lifts. Stand facing the side of the pool in waist– or chest-deep water. Rest your fingers on the side of the pool for balance, stand on one leg, and raise the other leg as high as you can while maintaining proper alignment (hips parallel to the wall, toe pointed, and top of the foot straight up or tilted slightly back, not rolled forward). Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds, lower it, and do the same thing on the other side. Do 8 to 10 reps, with one rep being a lift on both sides. You’ll strengthen the core, build balance, and improve flexibility.

6.  Current Chaos. If you have the whole pool to yourself, you may want to try creating currents and then running through them. Start in one corner of the pool and run in a wide zig-zag pattern to the opposite corner. Immediately return to your starting corner, taking a straight path. You’ll have to cross through all the currents you created with the zig-zag, adding all sorts of chaotic resistance. Repeat the pattern for as many three-minute intervals as you’d like, alternating with some of the less intense exercises above. NOTE: good posture is essential for this exercise. Your shoulders, hips, and ears should all be in a straight line up and down each other.

7. Laps. Laps are maybe not the most exciting pool exercise, but they are absolutely one of the most effective ways to get your heart rate going, burn fat, and tone your body. If you are new to swimming laps, start out with an easy regimen: swim four lengths of the pool, in any stroke, at an easy pace. Take breaks at each end, as needed. Repeat five to ten times. And if you are new to swimming or are otherwise struggling, there is no shame in using a kick board for your first few sessions. As your cardiovascular system adjusts to the new requirements of working in water, you’ll be able to toss the prop and increase the number of laps you do.

Water exercise would make a great addition to your workout routine. In the pool, you can get an effective workout for your core and your cardiovascular system while easing the strain on your joints and spine. So next time you think you couldn’t handle another minute on the treadmill or in the weight room, give the pool a try. Check out this awesome pool exercise article on Lifescript and this great video about pool workouts on Youtube.

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